Common Drip Irrigation Mistakes to Avoid

Using a drip irrigation system in your garden is one of the single most important things that you can do for it. Drip irrigation systems provide the right amount of water exactly where it is needed, saving you money and creating stronger, healthier plants. There are some rules to follow when installing a drip irrigation system in your garden to ensure you get the best results; below is a list of things to watch out for when designing and installing your new drip irrigation system.

Not Enough Emitters

The most common mistake people make when designing their system is not including enough drip emitters into the plan. Having the proper amount of emitters will ensure that your plants’ root systems are getting the water they need. The more emitters you have, the happier and healthier your plants will be, and by having more than one emitter per plant, you eliminate the risk of having a clogged emitter kill off a plant. If you have a smaller plant that only requires one emitter, ensure that you use a clogging disk to prevent this risk. 

Bad Placement

Placing your drip emitters too close together or too far apart is another bad move. Placing them evenly will ensure that your plants get the proper amount of water without having areas oversaturated. A good rule of thumb is to place drip emitters evenly spaced along the plant line and a minimum of six inches from the base of the plant.

Poor or No Filtration

Filtered water is best for the overall health of your plants and many drip irrigation systems come with a filter to ensure that you have many years of trouble-free use. Using a filter with a mesh screen of at least 155 is best if you want to provide adequate protection to the small orifices of the micro sprinklers and drippers.

Incorrect Pressure

Having adequate pressure is important for any drip irrigation system; without it, your system will fail and your plants will suffer from a lack of water.  Exceeding the flow rate for your water source and/or mainline tubing is one example. This will result in reduced water pressure, which could lead to clogging and inadequate watering.  The best way to keep from experiencing this kind of pressure loss is to always size your tubing and number of drippers correctly.

There is such a thing as too much water pressure.  Too much pressure will result in fittings and/or drippers popping off, thereby disabling the system. The best way to prevent too much pressure is to always include a pressure regulator.  This will ensure that your system operates at the correct pressure. 

Improper Zoning

By “Zoning” your drip systems, you are effectively separating plants that have different watering needs from others. Let’s say that you have trees, shrubs and dry climate plants; you will need three separate drip irrigation zones to provide them the water they need without over- or underwatering.  You also can separate your zones by type of soil and size of plants. There are many ways to properly zone your system, and knowing the right way will make all of the difference to your plants.

Wrong Watering Schedule

There are no set rules for watering schedules; doing your research and knowing what your plants’ needs are will go a long way in attaining the perfect watering schedule. Don’t assume that a drip irrigation system is a “set it and forget it” type of system; you may have to make periodic and seasonal changes to the watering schedule to get the balance you need. Only you know what your plants need at any given time of the year, and a properly installed drip irrigation system will ensure that your plants get the water they need without getting too little or too much.

Ordering Incompatible Thread Types

Incompatible thread types can cause leaks, loss of pressure and eventual damage to the entire system. When ordering your new drip irrigation system or parts for your existing system, you want to make sure that you get the right threads that match the threaded parts you already have installed. 

 You will have two different types of threaded parts: hose thread and pipe thread. Although there are certain parts in the drip irrigation system that have different types of threads, most will use the pipe thread or hose thread and the option of either a male or female fitting. Some basic abbreviations you should know are: 

  • PT = Pipe Thread
  • HT = Hose Thread
  • FPT = Female Pipe Thread
  • MPT = Male Pipe Thread
  • FHT = Female Hose Thread
  • MHT = Male Hose Thread 
  • NPT = National Pipe Thread 
  • GHT = Garden Hose Thread 

Without using an adapter, there is no way you can mix different thread types. Garden Hose Threads offers a watertight seal using a washer and pressure applied against it, whereas National Pipe Thread creates a seal using tightly fitted male and female threads.

For the above reasons, GHT never needs anything more than hand tightening, whereas NPT may require, Teflon tape or hand tools to achieve the tight seal.

Not Knowing the Outside and Inside Diameter of Your Tubing

There are many different sizes of drip tubing, and knowing which size you need is important. Tubing is measured by the inside and outside diameter of the tubing and is very general in designation. You may see some that are labeled ½” poly, ¾” poly, 1” poly and so on. These measurements can relate to differences in size up to 3 different size variations. Keep in mind that not all sizes will match others of the same rating, so caution should be executed when ordering.

If you plan on purchasing all of your 1/2" poly tubing and fittings from Drip Depot, all 1/2" tubing and fittings carried by us are compatible.

By following these simple rules and applying them across the design and installation of your system, you will have a drip irrigation system that will provide you with many years of use and worry-free operation. A properly installed drip irrigation system will enable your plants to grow healthy and strong and save you money on watering costs.

    Drip Irrigation Expert Mike

    Written by Mike Ricker | Mike Ricker is always looking for ways to make drip irrigation easier for everyone.  If you found this article useful or have a great tip, please pass it on to Mike at: